Public Adjusters vs. Independent Adjusters

When you file a claim for a covered event under your homeowners or business insurance policy, your insurer will assign an adjuster to handle the claim. Many people are not aware there are different types of adjusters or cannot tell them apart.

Understanding the differences and similarities between public adjusters and independent adjusters can help you decide if you need to hire a public adjuster. And it might have a direct impact on the amount of your settlement offer.

Two arrows with the words public adjuster and independent adjuster respectively

Note: Not all states have the same rules and regulations governing adjusters. This article mainly focuses on claims adjusters and public adjusters in California. Although much of the content will apply to other states as well, consult your state’s Department of Insurance for relevant rules and regulations.

Insurance Adjuster

Many states use different terms to classify adjusters. It includes “Property & Casualty Adjuster,” “General Lines Adjuster,” and “All Lines Adjuster.” These are all insurance adjusters who work for or on behalf of insurance companies.

California Insurance Code (Cal. Ins. Code) Section 14021 reads, in part:

An insurance adjuster within the meaning of this chapter is a person other than a private investigator as defined in Section 7521 of the Business and Professions Code who, for any consideration whatsoever, engages in business or accepts employment to furnish, or agrees to make, or makes, any investigation for the purpose of obtaining, information in the course of adjusting or otherwise participating in the disposal of, any claim under or in connection with a policy of insurance on behalf of an insurer.”

To summarize it in plain English:

An insurance adjuster investigates an insurance claim to obtain the necessary information to adjust the claim for or on behalf of an insurance company.

Note: To learn more about the rules and regulations governing insurance adjusters in California, refer to the California Department of Insurance.

Insurance adjusters typically fall into one of two categories, namely:

Company or “Staff” Adjuster

A company or staff adjuster is a full-time employee of an insurance company. Their job function is to investigate and adjust insurance claims for their employer. They act in the best interests of the insurer by helping to minimize their liability.

Independent Adjuster

The term independent adjuster is a bit of a misnomer or inaccurate description. Though the word “independent” would imply otherwise, insurers pay independent adjusters as their contracted representatives to investigate and adjust claims on their behalf.

They often only look after the best interests of the insurance company, not the policyholder. An independent insurance adjuster can work on a contract basis for multiple insurance companies.

Insurance companies typically hire independent insurance adjusters when:

  • Their staff can’t handle the volume of claims they need to process.
  • They need a highly specialized adjuster to manage a specific claim.
  • They don’t have staff, or sufficient staff, in certain areas.

Public Adjuster

Many people are not familiar with public adjusters (often referred to as private adjusters).

It’s often only when policyholders receive lowball settlement offers and suspect their insurance company is playing games that they discover they can hire a public adjuster to manage the claim on their behalf.

Public insurance adjusters are similar in many ways to company or independent insurance adjusters in that they also investigate and adjust insurance claims. However, they work for the policyholder, not the insurance company. And they act in the best interests of the policyholder by helping to maximize settlement offers from insurance companies.

The goal of a public adjuster is to help ensure you receive the maximum amount you’re entitled to under your insurance policy.

Note: To learn more about the rules are regulations governing public adjusters in California, refer to the California Department of Insurance.

Why Hire a Public Adjuster to Act On Your Behalf?

You may not have any say in the appointment of an insurance adjuster by your insurance company. But in most states, such as California, you have the right to hire a public adjuster to act in your best interests.

Filing and managing a homeowners insurance claim or business insurance claim for a covered event such as fire damage or water damage isn’t a walk in the park.

Documenting a claim by listing and describing damaged or destroyed items and how much it would cost to repair or replace requires more time and effort than most people realize. And unless you have the time, experience, and expertise to negotiate with an insurance adjuster and deal with contractors, your claim might quickly turn into a nightmare.

Would you sue someone and then accept what the other party’s attorney thinks is a reasonable settlement offer? It is what happens when you allow an insurance adjuster to decide what settlement you’re entitled to.

Insurance companies are not charitable institutions. Their shareholders expect them to be profitable and not leave any money on the table when negotiating with policyholders.

A public adjuster can level the playing field by advocating on your behalf.

Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Public Adjuster

Not all public adjusters are the same. You must find one that is a good fit for you. The following questions can help you to make an informed decision.

1. Make sure you hire a licensed public adjuster.

States like California, and many other states, require public adjusters to be licensed.

The easiest way to check if someone is a licensed public adjuster is to visit your state’s Department of Insurance website.

For example, the California Department of Insurance site where you can check a license looks like this:

Check a license at California Department of Insurance

2. How many years of experience do they have?

As in most professions, experience plays an important role. A freshly qualified public adjuster should be able to manage your insurance claim on your behalf. But if you have a large or complex insurance claim, it’s advisable to deal with a public adjuster that has experience in dealing with similar claims. 

3. Can they provide you with references?

All public adjusters try to create a good, professional impression. Many of them will provide you with references or point you towards their reviews. We recommend you read them and learn about your future public adjuster.

Note: At Avner Gat, Inc. we are proud to share our glowing testimonials with new clients.

4. Where are they located?

Some public adjusters accept jobs that fall outside their area and then find it difficult to service those claims. Make sure your public adjuster is able to give you the service you deserve.

Note: Avner Gat, Inc. covers Los Angeles, Ventura, Riverside, San Bernardino, Orange and San Diego counties.

Conclusion

The main differences between public adjusters and independent adjusters are:

  • A public adjuster is hired by a policyholder whereas an independent adjuster is appointed by an insurance company to handle a claim on their behalf.
  • A public adjuster looks after the best interests of the policyholder. Independent adjusters look after the best interests of the insurance company.
  • Public adjusters are paid by the policyholder – typically a percentage of the settlement amount. Independent adjusters are paid by the insurance company.

An experienced, reputable, and licensed public adjuster can help you overcome the challenges of managing your property insurance claim. They can assist you in getting the best possible settlement offer you’re entitled to under your homeowners or business insurance policy.

Avner Gat, Inc. has 17+ years of experience as a public adjuster in Los Angeles and Southern California. We protect homeowners and business owners from the games and fine print that insurance companies are known for.

Call us at (818) 917-5256 to find out how we can help you.